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Estate Gift Supports Curriculum

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Mary Elizabeth WieandBethany Theological Seminary announces that two new educational initiatives will be supported by a major gift from the estate of Mary Elizabeth Wertz Wieand. This gift comes through the David J. and Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust, established by members of a family whose roots go back to the very founding of the Seminary.  

“This generous gift came right at a time when we were evaluating how we would put some new curricular plans into effect,” said Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president. “We have been working with the family for some time on how we can most effectively utilize this resource in ways that honor the lifelong commitments of the Wieand family. It will be the pivotal financial element we needed to implement two new programs.”  

An amount of $150,000 from the gift will function as endowment support for a new continuing education program entitled Sustaining Ministerial Excellence: Advanced Seminar. Offered through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the program will provide educational opportunities for ordained Church of the Brethren ministers who are serving in a variety of ministry settings. The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board is contributing an equal amount to the project from its own Wieand estate gift. Bethany Seminary partners with the Church of the Brethren in offering ministry training programs through the Brethren Academy.

David J. Wieand, husband of Mary Elizabeth and long time faculty member at Bethany, helped establish an Advanced Pastors Seminar in the 1960s. More recently, the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program offered opportunities for personal and professional growth to Brethren pastors and church leaders. The new seminar initiative will incorporate features from both programs, according to Julie M. Hostetter, executive director of the Brethren Academy. Jonathan Wieand, son of David and Mary Elizabeth, agrees that the allocation of Wieand estate resources to this venture is especially appropriate. “I am certain that it would meet with my parents’ approval if they were here to review it.”

The balance of the Wieand gift, in excess of a half million dollars, will be reserved for long term support of an emerging program in reconciliation studies at Bethany. This new niche in the curriculum will address such topics as the theology and the theory of conflict transformation. It will also include practical study of interpersonal, organizational, and public conflict as well as applications in the congregational setting. Bethany is actively working toward placement of new faculty in this area of study.

David and Mary Elizabeth Wieand, both Bethany graduates, partnered in many educational ventures during their years together. He served in a variety of professorial and administrative roles at Bethany from 1939 to 1980, and she was a school teacher and accomplished musician, performing publicly well into her 90s. Mary Elizabeth survived David by more than twenty years, and this joint testamentary gift came to Bethany upon her death. At David and Mary Elizabeth’s request, the gift also honors Katherine Broadwater Wieand, mother of David and spouse of Bethany cofounder A. C. Wieand.

Brandon Hanks
(Master of Divinity)

BrandonI find great comfort in knowing that the gifts of God are irrevocable--that God is faithful even if we are faithless. My faith journey begins with the Church of the Brethren. I was raised in the church by my family going to Sunday school and attending worship each week. But as a teenager I found myself struggling in my understanding of the word of God. I wanted to own my faith. I wanted it to be a real and genuine confession, not one merely adopted through my family's tradition. It was during that time of exploration that God revealed my calling as a minister in God's church.